Analysis of the warmest Arctic winter, 2015–2016
December through February 2015–2016 defines the warmest winter season over the Arctic in the observational record. Positive 2 m temperature anomalies were focused over regions of reduced sea ice cover in the Kara and Barents Seas and southwestern Alaska. A third region is found over the ice-covered central Arctic Ocean. The period is marked by a strong synoptic pattern which produced melting temperatures in close proximity to the North Pole in late December and anomalous high pressure near the Taymyr Peninsula. Atmospheric teleconnections from the Atlantic contributed to warming over Eurasian high-latitude land surfaces, and El Niño-related teleconnections explain warming over southwestern Alaska and British Columbia, while warm anomalies over the central Arctic are associated with physical processes including the presence of enhanced atmospheric water vapor and an increased downwelling longwave radiative flux. Preconditioning of sea ice conditions by warm temperatures affected the ensuing spring extent.